Humanitarian needs exist when human beings are experiencing a low quality of life, or risk experiencing this, and need help in achieving a better life. Formulated differently, humanitarian needs concern how misery and suffering in the population can be remedied.
In the introduction, the report presents some main drivers and trends that can contribute to explaining humanitarian needs in Norway. The most important demographic trends are the strong inflow of immigrants during the last decades, an increase in the number of elderly persons and that the share of the population that is single and living alone have increased. Among the social and economic trends, we find increased economic inequality and a stronger emphasis on education and qualifications in working life. The corona pandemic that started in the first months of 2020 has also affected humanitarian needs in Norway and forms an important backdrop to all analyses in the report. For example, the corona measures led to a strong increase in registered unemployment in the beginning of the pandemic, before unemployment stabilized on a lower level.
The report investigates six forms of misery and suffering, partly based on the work of the American sociologist Ronald Anderson: low survival (premature death), poverty and physical hardship, physical suffering, psychological issues and suffering, interpersonal suffering, such as loneliness and violence, and social suffering, like unemployment and discrimination. The forms are presented in separate chapters, based on available statistics for Norway, and data from the Quality of Life survey 2021. Additionally, two chapters discuss the situation for groups that are not, or only to a limited degree, covered by surveys on living conditions and quality of life done in Statistics Norway. These comprise children and young people, and different minority groups and others who do not participate in surveys, some because they live in institutions (e.g. prisons, nursing homes).
The report gives an overview of the groups with the strongest humanitarian needs, those that are particularly vulnerable, based on the discussion in the empirical chapters. A separate chapter discusses a possible set of criteria for deciding which groups should be prioritized. The following ten groups are chosen: Persons with serious alcohol and drug addiction problems, children exposed to abuse, violence, bullying or care failure, asylum seekers and irregular immigrants, elderly with dementia, persons with serious mental disorders, social assistance recipients, families with children living in poverty, inmates in prisons, sexual minorities and gender minorities, and finally persons with impaired health and poor economy.
The final chapter of the report summarizes the trends since the last report, published in 2017, and the consequences of the corona pandemic for humanitarian needs in Norway. Developments have been mixed. In some areas, changes have been small or nonexistent, e.g. poverty has in general not increased in Norway during the pandemic. The most pronounced negative changes are found for mental health and various interpersonal problems, particularly concerning the extent of loneliness in society. The pandemic has amplified existing social and economic inequalities. As an example, low income groups have been sick more often than others due to covid infections, and they have had a higher risk of becoming temporarily laid off or losing their job because of the infection control measures. Children and the young have also been particularly affected. The corona pandemic seems to have strengthened the long term trend of young people experiencing a decrease in their quality of life, compared to the middle aged and the elderly. Young women aged 18-24, report to a particularly high degree that the corona pandemic has had negative consequences for their mental health. That some public service offerings have, periodically, been reduced during the pandemic, have been unfortunate for several of the most vulnerable groups, including drug addicts, persons with dementia and residents in nursing homes.